India Salvor Menuez’s BOOKLUB Will Make You Love Performance Art
“It’s not the pretentious, scary thing we are told it is,” says the New York artist and curator ahead of her event at MoMA.
Back in 2013, a curious setup called The Newsstand appeared in the spot where you would usually find snacks and soda at the Lorimer L train station in Brooklyn. Curated by 8-Ball Zine Fair's Lele Saveri, The Newsstand sold zines and hosted public events. It was at this first installation of The Newsstand that artist India Salvor Menuez began BOOKLUB, a series of performance art showcases, each contained within one day and featuring a slew of local creatives. A born-and-raised New Yorker and full-on downtown city girl, Menuez has been making and showing art since high school (although you might recognize her from the second series of Amazon's Transparent, in which she played the lover of Ali's professor). She describes herself as a "multi-hyphenated millennial focused on community" and hopes to provoke a new way of looking at performance art by positioning BOOKLUB directly in the field of vision of those traversing a public, high-traffic setting. The simple but brilliant idea is to give people unfamiliar with performance art the opportunity to indulge their curiosity.
Tomorrow, the tenth installation of BOOKLUB will take place at Newsstand's current location in the Ocean of Images: New Photography exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (it will be there through March 20). Though not quite as public a space as the Lorimer L stop, the famed midtown institution will likely welcome new kinds of eyes and ears to the performance series. "There are little clumps of artists exploring similar ideas and aesthetics," Menuez says of tomorrow's line-up, "but all in all it is a very mixed bag." BOOKLUB 10 will feature performances from the likes of Bunny Michael, Claire Christerson, and Mike Bailey Gates (separately in this case, but together you might know them as Mike and Claire), and many others. Here, Menuez explains her motivations, goals, and what it is that especially excites her about working with local artists and creating her own platform.
What inspired you to set up BOOKLUB?
INDIA SALVOR MENUEZ: I was just starting to get into making performance work myself and was inspired by poetry readings friends were putting on in alternative spaces. Coming from a DIY background, I always answered the question, How do I get people to see my and my friends' work? with Just create your own platform. BOOKLUB was this platform, and its freeform flexibility made it easy to keep doing in whatever space was granted—on Know-Wave; at [free art school] BHQFU (after getting kicked out of David Lewis Gallery mid-BOOKLUB 7); [Long Island-based creative platform] Auto Body, which then became a big artist camping trip; the Baby's All Right Miami Basel pop-up, etc. There are always amazing, excited artists who want to share their work.
What will Thursday’s performance entail?
I have over 35 acts planned, all artists stemming from the many-branched community I am part of in N.Y.C. I will post a full set-list on my Instagram [below] if you're really curious who. The what will be a lot of different work, I love the idea that most people are only going to come for a snippet of the seven hour day and so there will be all these different experiences of BOOKLUB 10. There are little clumps of artists exploring similar ideas and aesthetics, but all in all it is a very mixed bag, which hopefully in such a public setting means something for everyone.
How do you feel about doing BOOKLUB at MoMA?
I really could never have imagined it would make it to this validating of a context. I'm really glad it can be an event inside of an installation—it doesn't have to stand alone in the museum this way, and we get to bypass a certain amount of usual museum protocol. The people of 8-Ball who started and continue The Newsstand, Lele Saveri in particular, are some of the most supportive and inspiring people in N.Y.C. to me. To be able to be doing something at MoMA within the embrace of that community is really special.
What do you hope viewers will take away from Thursday's performance?
That performance art can be digested and enjoyed by the layperson. That it's not the pretentious, scary thing we are told it is. That performance is exciting because it's the only form of art you get to experience as it is being made, by the artist, and that experience is the work. And that whatever your experience of the work is, is totally valid.
What’s your next move?
For now I can only think so far as BOOKLUB 11—I am thinking somewhere outside, when it gets warm.